Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lukewarm or Longing?

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
                                                Psalm 42:1-2a

Have you ever been really hungry or thirsty? So hungry that all you can think about is finding something to eat? So thirsty that everything in you is focused on finding water to drink?

In college, I was part of a 6-week summer study tour of Europe. Our group boarded a train for a 14 hour nonstop ride between two cities. We were unaware that the train we were on had no food service and none of us had brought anything to eat.  All we could talk about after the first five to six hours was how hungry we were. We were totally focused on our hunger to the exclusion of anything else.

When I read the verses above, I think about that train trip. I believe it gives me a glimpse into the type of longing the Psalmist describes, an all-consuming longing that becomes the sole focus of one’s attention. Contrast that intensity of desire with another degree of desire: I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  (Revelation 3:15-16). Being lukewarm denotes indifference, not longing. We were not lukewarm about food on that long train ride!

So which is the more accurate description of your love for God? Do you ache for deeper relationship with your Creator, or is relationship relegated to a ten minute devotional in the morning and prayer when you are in a jam?

I enjoy reading the works of some of the enduring church leaders, folks such as Augustine of Hippo, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross and Julian of Norwich. You would be hard pressed to find any lukewarmness toward God in their writings. In fact, the way they often describe their love for God would make some modern Christians blush! They describe their love for God with all the heat and passion of an erotic novel.

Hear these words of St. Augustine: You called, you cried, you shattered my deafness. You sparkled, you blazed, you drove away my blindness. You shed your fragrance, and I drew in my breath, and I pant for you. I tasted and now I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and now I burn with longing for your peace.

Does this describe your relationship with God? I know that reading the works of many of the early church leaders challenges me to reflect on my love for God, to evaluate where I am on the scale between lukewarm and longing. I pray to have a burning love for Christ, where Christ is all in all, not a lukewarm indifference toward God that gets lost in competing priorities. 

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